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Keywords:

  • channels;
  • drainage networks;
  • gully;
  • hillslopes;
  • wildfire;
  • scaling;
  • stream networks

Abstract

The drainage networks of catchment areas burned by wildfire were analysed at several scales. The smallest scale (1–1000 m2) representative of hillslopes, and the small scale (1000 m2 to 1 km2), representative of small catchments, were characterized by the analysis of field measurements. The large scale (1–1000 km2), representative of perennial stream networks, was derived from a 30-m digital elevation model and analysed by computer analysis.

Scaling laws used to describe large-scale drainage networks could be extrapolated to the small scale but could not describe the smallest scale of drainage structures observed in the hillslope region. The hillslope drainage network appears to have a second-order effect that reduces the number of order 1 and order 2 streams predicted by the large-scale channel structure. This network comprises two spatial patterns of rills with width-to-depth ratios typically less than 10. One pattern is parallel rills draining nearly planar hillslope surfaces, and the other pattern is three to six converging rills draining the critical source area uphill from an order 1 channel head. The magnitude of this critical area depends on infiltration, hillslope roughness and critical shear stress for erosion of sediment, all of which can be substantially altered by wildfire. Order 1 and 2 streams were found to constitute the interface region, which is altered by a disturbance, like wildfire, from subtle unchannelized drainages in unburned catchments to incised drainages. These drainages are characterized by gullies also with width-to-depth ratios typically less than 10 in burned catchments. The regions (hillslope, interface and channel) had different drainage network structures to collect and transfer water and sediment. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.